The Winter of Artifice: Anais Nin’s banned book
One of the reasons that Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell turned to Jack Kahane of Obelisk Press to publish their books in the 1930s was because Kahane wasn’t afraid to publish what no others would touch. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, which debuted in 1934, was banned from all English-speaking countries for decades and was the centerpiece of the American “pornography” trials of the 1960s.
What is little known is that Anaïs Nin’s original version of The Winter of Artifice (1939) was also, according to Nin herself, banned in the U.S. On more than one occasion she refers to the few copies that were smuggled into this country as having somehow eluded the censors. When Nin decided to publish an American version of the book, she omitted an entire novella (“Djuna,” her fictionalized version of the Anaïs-Henry-June love triangle) and several passages from the remaining two novellas (“Lilith” and “The Voice”) to avoid scrutiny.
In one of the passages in “Djuna,” the protagonist reveals her feelings for Hans, the character based on (or, more accurately, is) Miller:
While he lay over me with his unabatable attentiveness I knew he was watching the alterations of my face, listening to the cries I uttered, and the final deeper, savage tones. I closed my eyes before this watchfulness of his and sank into a blind, moist drunkenness. I felt myself caught in the immense jaws of his desire, felt myself dissolving, ripping open to his descent. I felt myself yielding up to his dark hunger. An immense jaw closing upon my feelings, my feelings smouldering, rising from me like smoke from a black mass. Take me, take me, take my gifts and my moods and my body, take all you want.
I am being fucked by a cannibal.
It is all that is human in me that he devours. He eats me as if my love for him were something he wanted to possess inside his body, at the very core of his body, like fuel. He eats me as if my faith in him were a food he needed for daily sustenance.
He is not concerned to know whether I can live or breathe within the dark cavern of his whale-like being, within the whale-belly of his ego.
Miller himself heavily edited “Djuna,” and much of his editing found its way into the final version of the story. (For more on this subject, click here.)
Another passage omitted from the same novella focuses on Djuna’s relationship with Johanna (June Miller):
Johanna’s eyes were like the forest. The darkness of the forest, the watchfulness behind an ambush. Fear. I journeyed into the darkness of it. I walked from the place where my dress had fallen, carrying my breasts like gifts in my half-opened hands; I carried them to her as if expecting to be thrust by her mortally.
Johanna loosened her hair and said: “You are so extraordinarily white.” With a strange weight, like a sadness, she spoke. It was not the white substance of me, but my significance, the whiteness of my newness to life, which Johanna seemed to sigh for. “You are so white, so white and smooth.” And there were deep shadows in her eyes, shadows of one old with life; shadows in her neck, in her arms, and on her knees, violet shadows.
While this passages may seem tame compared to today’s erotic literature, they were far ahead of their time, especially when we consider that the author was a woman.
In 2007, the only in-print edition of the original The Winter of Artifice was published as a facsimile of the original. It was a project that took two years to complete after careful restoration of the font and cover.
Click here order The Winter of Artifice 1939 edition for $9.99. Good till Oct. 6, 2012.